Wednesday Federal Employment Case Law Update

Hello all and thanks again for stopping to check out my blog.  It is Wednesday, which means I will provide a case law update on federal employment law.  This typically involves me discussing a court opinion issued within the previous week.  For some reason, the most interesting cases keep coming out of Michigan!

On February 10th, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion in Thompson v. City of Lansing, 2011 WL 476865 (6th Cir. Feb. 10, 2011).  Thompson involved a police officer applicant alleging reverse discrimination.  Summary judgment was entered for Defendant by the Western District of Michigan.  The 6th Circuit affirmed. 

Plaintiff alleged that he was passed over for hiring in favor of two other males, one Hispanic and one African-American.  In support, Plaintiff cited to comments made by the officer who interviewed him, claiming that such comments constituted direct evidence of discrimination.   According to Plaintiff, his interviewer said, “You’re not going to believe this.  You’re being bumped so that minorities on the bottom of the list can get moved up to be hired.”  However, that officer was not the final decisionmaker.  Citing to Carter v. Univ. of Toledo, 349 F. 3d 269 (6th. Cir. 2003), the 6th Circuit held that “comments made by individuals who are not involved in teh decision-making process regarding the plaintiff’s employment do not constitute direct evidence of discrimination.”  The interviewer testified that he had no role in the decision to hire aside from assembling background information.   Accordingly, Plaintiff’s direct evidence claim was rejected.

Plaintiff further attempted an indirect evidence claim, stating that the two minority men were similarly suited individuals outside his protected class who received more favorable treatment.  The 6th Circuit rejected this argument, however, because the evidence showed that the decision to hire the two individuals was made months prior to Plaintiff’s selection to the potential “hiring roster.”

The takeaway from this case is the reminder of how substantial a comment must be to be accepted as “direct evidence” of discrimination.  

I will be back tomorrow with the first installment from my poker blog!

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